Virtual reality helping kids prepare for MRI scans

An MRI scan can be scary for a child, but now a new program at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital is aiming to change that to help reduce anxiety in pediatric patients.

The MRI Ready Program uses several tools, including virtual reality software developed by Saskatoon company Luxsonic Technologies Inc. to prepare pediatric patients prior to their MRI scan.

Over the last year, Luxsonic has worked in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority to develop an immersive software application that allows a patient, wearing a virtual reality headset, to virtually experience the entire MRI procedure, from signing in at the front desk to lying down in the MRI machine.

The program occurs in 30-minute sessions with a Child Life Specialist in the Child Life Zone at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital. Children experience the virtual MRI and are then given medical play equipment and encouraged to play, explore, and ask question on the steps of the procedure. They even get to practice staying still in a mock MRI tunnel in the Child Life Zone.

The MRI Ready Program aims to reduce anxiety, improve the patient experience, and decrease the number of pediatric patients that require sedation during an MRI. The first patients have recently gone through the program and have successfully completed an MRI scan without the need of sedation.

The Teammates for Kids Child Life Zone which hosts the program is a state-of-the-art environment for pediatric patients and their families. It joins 11 other Child Life Zones across North America, but Saskatchewan’s new zone is the first of its kind in Canada.

The unique space provides play opportunities and helps normalize and educate kids and families about medical procedures. The Zone also hosts various events and other programs throughout the week including music and art therapy.

The 2,800 square foot therapeutic play area was generously supported by Garth Brooks and the Teammates for Kids Foundation, in partnership with Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation.

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